Guest blogger: Summer student employee Jordan Edwards-Zinger

August 1, 2019
Laura Wilsey
Jordan Edwards-Zinger

Learning how to process materials, and the long assembly-line of tasks that need to be completed to make these materials available for researchers has been an eye opening experience. I never could have imagined just how many time consuming steps would be involved with the preparation and filing of newly acquired material. 

When a collection first comes into the Special Collections vault, all its contents must be taken out and re-sorted into various sizes of folders and boxes using specific organizational techniques. These boxes and folders must then be labeled and recorded into a collection management software called ArchivesSpace. ArchivesSpace is a tool that is used in creating a finding aid that allows researchers to easily look up the contents and organization of a given collection. After this, the collection is cataloged by the Manuscripts Cataloger in the department and added to SearchWorks, Stanford Libraries’ online catalog where researchers can discover information about a collection and  request a date to look at the original material if desired. Biographies and summaries of the collection often times must be written and added to this resource as well. 

After this comes end processing, the final step that prepares collections to be sent off, and my personal favorite. Labels must be printed out for each container in the collection which must also be barcoded and stamped. The final step is to input the barcodes into the cataloging software and file away any informational documents related to the collection. 

Although this process can be time consuming and at times tedious (especially when the printer decides to take the day off), it is overall an interesting process that I am always excited to start. The wide variety of subjects within the collections we get to work with gives us a chance to learn new things every day, and I am definitely grateful that I had the opportunity to join this department, even if only for a summer.

The continent of Africa has, since the end of colonialism been struggling with disease outbreaks and unstable governments. Because of this, many governments and advocacy groups spend millions of dollars a year in an attempt to educate their citizens on how to end these problems. Many of these campaigns are done through the use of advertising, specifically in the form of posters. Stanford Special Collections has recently finished processing a recent acquisition of some such posters. 

Empowering women poster

The posters in the African Posters and Ephemera collection focus on everything from child prostitution to human trafficking to ebola outbreaks to re-election campaigns and everything in between. Many of the posters are written in English with some exceptions featuring French and Swahili. The posters come from all over the continent of Africa with notable countries of acquisition being Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. These posters offer a window into the lives of people in third world communities and show just how desperate some people’s lives can be as well as certain things people can do to help. This makes the collection an invaluable resource when researching problems that plague the African continent to this day.

Special Collections has also recently finished processing a 2017 addendum to the Charles Hobson Collection, originally acquired in 2007. Charles Hobson is a book artist who uses stories and/or poems written by various authors and creates unique artist books to effectively reimagine the story. His passion for artist books first began after making a tribute book for Bruce Nelson containing his poems after his death in 1984.

Hobson collection

The newly processed acquisition contains titles such as The Ancient Mariner, Degas in Rome, and Mermaid. Included are design notes, printed images, paintings, matrices, templates, trials, research, prototypes, models, and materials that he was considering for each of his projects. These materials document design ideas that were not followed as well as those incorporated into the final pieces. Correspondence and receipts were also included for some of his books. Any and all of these resources would be invaluable to those looking into how a book artist conceptualizes their projects and/or looking into the stories and projects themselves.

Overall, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to work on some very interesting collections this summer as well as get an insider’s view on how exactly newly acquired materials are processed and released to the public. I hope that the above outline of steps and descriptions of collections gives you a greater appreciation for the work that goes into each and every collection and convinces you to come on down to the Special Collections’ Reading Room in Green Library to check out these or our other various collections.


Jordan is a Junior at Gunn High School who takes great joy in studying French and international affairs. She plans to attend a political science university in France after graduation. In her free time she enjoys traveling and experimenting with blends of tea.